Tonalism in the Holloway collection

March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

From the Holloway collection: Piazzoni, Oldfield, Mathews, Redmond.

Tonalism in the back room: Piazzoni, Oldfield, Mathews, Redmond.

Jan Holloway writes, in Good Times, Hard Times: I became very interested in the California Tonalist painters — Arthur Mathews, early Granville Redmond, Charles Rollo Peters. The subdued limited palette and soft light were poetic to me.

Mathews was the leading figure of the Bay Area scene in the early 20th century. He served as dean of the Mark Hopkins School of Art, now known as the San Francisco Art Institute. During his 17-year tenure he had great influence over countless young students, many of whom became prominent artists of their times. One of his students, San Franciscan Lucia Kleinhaus, a fine painter, became his wife. Their marriage in 1894 linked two remarkable talents. After the 1906 earthquake, together they founded a workshop producing handcrafted furniture and decorative items in what would become known as the California Decorative Style.

The Oakland Museum amassed an important collection of their work, with many items permanently on view. In 2006, curator Harvey Jones, long the expert on the lives and work of Arthur and Lucia Mathews, produced a magnificent exhibition that was his farewell salute to the amazing couple before he retired. The handsome book accompanying the exhibit is a work of art in itself. We were delighted that our painting, San Francisco Bay Scene, was included in the exhibition.

Gottardo Piazzoni devoted his life to a study of landscape. Never interested in merely copying what he saw in nature, he sought to express its inner meaning. For decades his very modern compositions did just that in lyric soft poetry.

In his own unmistakable spare modern style, he produced easel paintings, etchings, monoprints and many large murals. In 1929 he was commissioned to paint 10 mural panels for the San Francisco Public Library. In 2005, after intense lobbying when the library became the Asian Art Museum and the murals were removed, those magnificent panels were reinstalled in their own room at the new de Young Museum. Today thousands of visitors appreciate the work of one of San Francisco’s most distinguished artists.

Becoming acquainted with the Piazzoni family was pure delight. They are a great bunch — full of talent, energy and a wonderful sense of humor. My association with the family began in 1982 when I met Russell Chatham, Gottardo Piazzoni’s grandson, when Maxwell Galleries held a one-person exhibition of his Montana work. His paintings and prints showed the strong influence of his grandfather. A few years later, when I began working with the Ralph Stackpole estate in my North Beach gallery, I met all the Piazzonis because the two families had been friends for decades.

I then conceived the idea of a Piazzoni family exhibition, which included Gottardo’s daughter, Mireille Piazzoni Wood, whose subjects often were happy beach scenes at the Russian River; her husband, the artist Phillip Wood; and their son, Thomas Wood, a fine painter of the Marin landscape who was also influenced by his grandfather’s love of the natural world — plus Russell Chatham and a few paintings by grandfather Gottardo. It was a great and positive learning experience for me.

MORE: Stories of the collection

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